In 1986 few would have guessed that The Delta Force would become an interesting historical document thirty years on – after all it is a Chuck Norris / Lee Marvin actioner from Cannon Films. However, it’s not just a piece of cinema history from the now legendary Cannon, but also a political piece that illustrates the peak of Regan-era America.
Directed by Menahem Golan, The Delta Force tells the story of the hijacking of an American bound aeroplane from Athens by a ragtag group of Lebanese terrorists (led by Robert Forster). The plane is then diverted to Beirut, and that’s when the elite Delta Force come into play. Led by the crotchety Colonel Alexander (Lee Marvin in his final performance) and the always late man of honour McCoy (Chuck Norris) the terrorists don’t stand a chance.
Cartoon to the extreme, The Delta Force plays like a Ronald Regan fever-dream from 1986. The politics is cut and dry, the action is ridiculous and the performances are broad. That’s not to say there isn’t anything to enjoy about Golan’s film – in fact it’s highly entertaining, playing like a violent big screen crossover of Mission: Impossible and The A-Team (the television series, not the movies) or an ‘80s terrorist update of the Airport movies (it even has George Kennedy as a passenger). Everything is farfetched, from the dialogue to Norris’ rocket launcher motorbike.
Clint Eastwood once famously said that ‘a man’s gotta know his limitations’ and Chuck Norris knows his. The bearded one keeps dialogue to a minimum and action to a premium as he kicks and shoots his way through a selection of sweaty terrorists. Norris’ McCoy is the type of hero who quits the Delta Force when he thinks that things have turned sour but suddenly rejoins when he knows that his country needs him. He’s also the type of hero who eats scrambled eggs and drinks Budweiser (together no less) – and who has his kitchen in his cattle barn! Think of the hygiene man.
The Delta Force is a fantastic look at the low-budget action scene from the ‘80s. Menahem Golan’s film makes the Rambo sequels look subtle and it’s a great example of how American politics and moviemaking converged in a decade where excess was everything. At over 2 hours long, the film outstays its welcome by about 20 minutes (apparently there’s a four hour cut!) – but that’s a small criticism for a movie that is potentially the pinnacle of Chuck Norris’ cinematic career – and that says something when he also top lined Top Dog!.
Arrow Video does it again. Interviews with serial Chuck Norris screenwriter James Brurner and Mark Hartley, director of Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. They touch on the making of The Delta Force and other Cannon productions. The disc also comes with an interesting documentary on the real Delta Force and a trailer. Enjoyable stuff for such a schlock actioner.